Ties that Bind: Enhanced Social Awareness Development Through Interactions with Diverse Peers
by Shirley R. Greene Mark Kamimura University of Michigan
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education Portland, Oregon, November 12-15, 2003
The work reported herein is supported under the National Institute for Student Achievement, Curriculum and Assessment program, agreement number R305T990402-00, CFDA/Subprogram No.:84.305T, as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education. The findings and opinions expressed in this report do not reflect6 the position and policies of OERI or the U.S. Department of Education.
Social Awareness INTRODUCTION Social awareness has it roots in the second wave of the feminist movement (Bickford & Reynolds, 2002). It is viewed as one of the key components of consciousness-raising, the other being social action. For many researchers, awareness about issues affecting the community or raising social consciousness has always been a precursor to social movement(Steinem, 1983; Swift, 1990). The internal and external survival of organizations, particularly higher education institutions, requires that they engage their members and encourage them to develop a social awareness that will enable them to reach out to the broader community on these issues. More recent research conducted by Astin (1998), revealed a decline in the percentage of first-year students who voted in a student election and expressed interest in “participating in a community action program,” “promoting racial understanding,” and “becoming involved with programs to clean up the environment” (p. 132) Many traditional college-aged students lack the social awareness that leads to social change (Bickford & Reynolds, 2002). Although they can easily identify the icons of social movements, such as the civil rights movement, they seldom appreciate the needs, impetus, and historical specificity that drives social change movements. Furthermore, they fail to understand how a democracy works and exhibit little interest in the U.S. political system (Giroux, 1987; Hepburn, 1985). Reformers view students who lack this type of knowledge, understanding and interest as lacking sensitivity to the needs of others and a willingness to be active citizens (Swift, 1990).
From a research perspective, social awareness is an important facet of student development to understand because of the recognized links between social awareness and social change, as well as the development of critical thinking skills (Tsui, 2000). From a practice perspective, higher
Social Awareness education institutions are being called upon to create an informed citizenry capable of understanding and addressing a myriad of social issues.
Steinem (1983) defines the social change process as follows: “naming the problem; speaking out, consciousness raising, and researching; creating alternate structures to deal with it; and beginning to create or change society’s laws and structures to solve the problem for the majority.” This paper focuses solely on those aspects related to increased awareness, specifically “naming the problem, speaking out, consciousness raising, and researching (Ibid).” We define social awareness in terms of the importance that students attribute to: 1) speaking up against social injustice; 2) creating awareness of how people affect the environment; 3) promoting racial tolerance and respect; and 4) making consumer decisions based on a company’s ethics. These dimensions constitute the type of social awareness that students need to develop during their college years, in order to function well in a complex and diverse society. REVIEW OF LITERATURE The relevance of exploring the development of social awareness among college students is supported by several theoretical and empirically-based studies. First, we examine literature linking social...
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